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The choice between the possible and the ideal is often difficult: it is not easy to know where to draw the line. I know of no better way than to keep one's eye on the ideal, but not to insist on it. Meditate on it, cherish it, enshrine it in your hearts. Let it be a temple where you go to pray and refresh your spirit; but, when you come out, face the world as it is, and do the best you can.
Only do something, -- the first and constant requisite in all human undertaking. It is a long and weary path that humanity has to tread. The spires of the golden city shine in the distance but are reached only by a path that sometimes drops into low valleys, sometimes winds as if it turned back; and every step is so short that progress is seen only by faith. But, meanwhile, we may rest confidently in the reality of the ideal and draw in its inspiration. If the kingdom were not to come, if society were not to be regenerated, little heart would be left us even to deliberate on the evils of the world, and none at all for resisting them. We are not striving to overcome certain abuses, but to deliver from all evil.
My second suggestion is that we should press the altruistic principle into the fullest possible use.
The time has come for ascending into the higher forms of human helpfulness and service. The door that opens and no man shuts is turning on its hinges, and we catch glimpses of that world in which the love of God is man's rule of conduct. The peculiarity of the end of the age is a tendency to think correctly. The glamour of Greek art and ideals, the art for art's sake hallucination, the conscienceless literature, --- each with its deep and subtle selfishness, are passing by, dying of their own emptiness. The world has no more use for them. The age of agnosticism, with its paralysis of the moral nature, is also passing. Its vision of a godless universe is ending,
And on the glimmering limit far withdrawn
A clearer faith, a more altruistic service,- these are the signs we see in our sky. God and duty, Christ and the Christ-life, – these are now before us, not merely under the form of the Church, but also as the revelation of science and the product of thought. The developing world is drawing nigh to the Life that was lived under the Syrian sky. We are actually taking into our thought and turning over as something worth testing the idea that not struggle for exist
ence but love is the law of the world. Mr. Kidd does great mischief when he relegates this truth to the super-rational realm. It is instead the very soul of reason: it is the burden and secret of nature, only we have not clearly seen it. That my neighbor is as real as myself, and that, therefore, it is my duty to love him as myself, is unquestionable logic; but we have not fully thought it out.
It only remains to apply this truth to society. My suggestion is that we should crowd it upon the world as fast as There is already more of it than most of us suspect. Your Convention that has broken in upon our studies and industries a most welcome intrusion - is one of many signs of the multitudes who are applying the altruistic law to the present condition of society.
There is, in some quarters, fear lest it will work deterioration of character by weakening self-reliance. It is urged that it is better to leave men to the laws by which the deserving win and the weak fail; that what is needed and aimed at is a world full of strong men, and not a world full of patched-up weak ones, -_ questions on which we will not now enter, only remarking that we must be careful how we handle these great words ; careful also lest we find ourselves repeating the worn-out catchwords of past ages, deaf to some heavenborn words that are fast finding their way into the vocabulary of modern thought. It is unfortunate that, whenever the word "love" is used, it is thought to imply a sentiment or a gift. It is a sentiment, and it may imply a gift; but it is more than either or both. Neither indicates its prime function. This, I should say, is to secure 12 full individualism as a basis for the social system. Its first and inain aim is to strengthen the man himself. And the chief work it has to do is to take off the burdens and root out the evils that now crush men into misery and weakness. If I were to look into the Scriptures for the word that best describes the task that lies before social reform, it would be that spoken at the grave of Lazarus, "Loose him, and let him go." Make a living man of him, unbind him, and he will take care of himself. When that is done, social science may take him and fix his place in the social fabric. At present and for a long time to come the main business of reform will be to work out those evils that have made men weak and defeated their manhood. It does not presume to wage a contest with nature, in order to save those who it were better should not be saved. Its contest is with the evils that have brought about an abnormal state
of society and filled it with abnormal men. Let it be as it will and must with these : love will do its uttermost for them; but the main thing it has to do is to stop the processes that are turning out generation after generation of bruised and maimed and thwarted humanity. Such is the work of altruistic reform,- not the ideal fantasies of Mr. Howells, nor the vagaries of Mr. Bellamy, nor the reduction of society to one vast man, as socialism would have it, but rather such an improvement of social conditions that individualism shall have full play.
Thus character becomes possible,- the only logical explanation of humanity, the only achievement worth striving for.
REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE BOARDS
OF PUBLIC CHARITIES.
The world is governed by ideas : the idealist is an uncrowned king. All institutions are the embodiment of ideas. The ideal of mutual affection and self-sacrifice is forever renewed in the family, which keeps it alive for the benefit of mankind, as the Roman vestàls preserved for posterity the divine gift of fire. The Church exists as a semi-supernatural propaganda of righteousness,- a righteousness so transcendent that it ceases to be known by that name, and is called holiness instead. The modern State has its invisible, if not unattainable, goal in the reconciliation of personal freedom with the acknowledged need for order and subordination. The ideal of the university is scholarship; the revelation of the unknown, not by miracle, but as the reward of intellectual labor, and by the conservation and diffusion of the discoveries of philosophy, science, arid art. These and all other ideals are in the nature of inspiration, moving individuals and the world to higher and yet higher achievements. The crises of history have been the epochs when the passionate purpose to realize some unfulfilled ideal has swept into temporary oblivion the prudential considerations which impede the path of progress. The leaders of humanity have been the men with the largest, clearest, highest, most enduring ideals, whom the world has at first scorned, as it scoffed at Lincoln and crucified Jesus Christ, but whose conceptions of life and duty have at last been accepted and given shape to customs and to laws. The idealist is a poet of the first rank. He does not write poetry, perhaps, but he lives it, in
the sense that his imagination enables him to see what other men
It is the idea that underlies this Conference, which gives it vitality and influence. The same idea underlies the State Boards of Public Charities. To develop it in your consciousness is the aim of the present report. For there are three mental states,— consciousness, unconsciousness, and subconsciousness. Subconsciousness resembles latent heat. It is the condition of pretty much all bodies of men, in proportion to their size. A community is never blind to its history, relations, and destiny; yet it perhaps never fully images them forth to itself.
In its original constitution this Conference is essentially the annual meeting with each other of the American State Boards of Charities, which the representatives of all charitable and correctional institutions and societies in the United States are invited to attend. The motive of the invitation so freely extended is twofold: it includes the desire on the part of the members and officers of these boards to qualify themselves for their work by a wider survey of the field which it is their special duty to cultivate ; and also the wish to create a wise public opinion upon all questions connected with the care of the destitute, the unfortunate, and the criminal, as the only medium in which these boards can act so as rightly to discharge their peculiar function of influencing legislation. The aim of the State Boards and of the Conference, in this regard, is identical. More with a view to emphasizing the permanent relations of the boards to the Conference than for any other reason, its President has always, until this year, been chosen from their own number. To keep the Conference alive and to extend its power for good is one of their first and highest obligations, as it is their obvious interest. No
can do it. If the general direction and control of the work of the Conference should ever be wrested from them, at the suggestion of personal ambition or excessive enthusiasm for the promotion of some special philanthropic interest, by the will of an accidental numerical majority, the organization would, in our judgment, be in peril of going to pieces, and the section which should retain the name, but not the substance which the name implies, would be